Dominet Corporation (former CEO, destra Corporation)
Domenic Carosa founded destra Corporation (then called Sprint) with his sister Anna in 1993. By 1998, destra ran a number of the leading entertainment websites in Australia. In 2000, the company reverse-listed on the ASX a matter of hours before the tech crash on Wall Street. After diversifying into web hosting to survive the dot-com recession, Carosa took the company back to its digital media roots in 2005 and built it into a $100m company with 300 staff nationally. Earlier this year, Carosa became a casualty of the Opes Prime collapse, which resulted in him losing his equity in destra and his departure from the company he built and loved.
Interviewed, edited and condensed by Paul Ryan.
Influence is more important than control.
In a start-up company, you own all the shares. You have absolute influence and absolute control. As soon as you start bringing in investors and advisors, you surrender absolute control in return for degrees of influence. Absolute control is overrated. It’s more about influence, in order to build a much larger and more successful company.
I was forced to retrench half my team in January 2001, on the day that I call “Black Monday”. It was one of the most difficult decisions and actions I’ve ever had to take. We had to let go of some really good people simply because we weren’t making sufficient revenue. It’s never a nice thing to let people go. But, ultimately, it was the right decision for the company and if I had to do it again, I would. It saved the company. The worst thing you can do in that scenario is not take action.
Know your market.
Back in 2000 we were at the “bleeding edge”. When you’re too ahead of the curve you burn too much money. These days I’ve learnt that it’s good to be slightly ahead of the curve but not too far ahead of the curve. It’s a matter of how much money you have in the piggy bank and how much you can afford to burn in order to get to the stage where consumers are ready.
When one door closes, many doors open.
People ask, “Why were you with Opes Prime?” The core reason was, I leveraged my destra shares to buy more destra shares, because I believed in the company. And I used my destra shares to exercise my destra options. I never sold a destra share in my entire life. In hindsight, the whole Opes Prime experience was actually one of the best things that happened to me. There was obviously a touch of sadness. But sometimes you need to let something go for something new in your life to appear.
Always take money off the table.
In hindsight, I should have sold $1 million worth of stock. But being CEO and a director of a public company, every time you buy or sell shares you need to disclose it. In the back of my mind all of these years was, ‘What will people think if I sell shares in my own company?’ In the future I won’t be thinking like that. I’ll be thinking about diversifying so all of my eggs aren’t in one basket.
Only work with people you like.
I know in the past that I’ve made some decisions based on profit and loss, balance sheets, internal rates of return, etc. And maybe I didn’t pay so much attention to the people stuff. A mistake is only a mistake if you don’t learn from it. I might be in a position to acquire a business with the best balance sheet and profit and loss, but if I don’t like the people in the business, I will not do that deal. Period.